Jan Osmotherly

What I heard

Two videos with sound: Searching – video 5 min 38 sec; Gasping – video 4 min 55 sec

As a visual storyteller my goal is to stimulate attitudinal change at a local level – which in turn will inspire action to respect and care for our planet and all living things within. Facts alone, unfortunately, do not move most people to embrace change. To motivate change, we need also to stimulate emotions. To change – you have to CARE. These two short films evolved last summer – the summer of extreme heat and unprecedented fires. The land and its animals were screaming. The consequences of human arrogance and greed were clear to all who listened.

I present two snapshots of what I heard in my backyard.


One backyard. One summer. One lens. This short film is a snapshot of the stress suffered by some of our native woodland birds in extreme heat. Both geographic and time focus are narrow: my backyard less than 30 square metres in north-east Victoria, on two days of the 2020 summer.
The provision of safe and accessible water in our small backyard draws in a surprising variety of species on days of extreme heat. GASPING features 20 species of woodland birds, many rarely seen or who mostly go unnoticed. Since European settlement approximately 80% of Australia’s temperate woodlands have been cleared. Already, at least one in five woodland bird species is deemed threatened. GASPING shows a simple way that humans can make a difference for our feathered friends at the local level. It also highlights the glaring fact that at national and global level not enough positive action is being taken.


SEARCHING is filmed in a small patch of nearby remnant bushland. It captures rare daylight footage of a nocturnal native species searching for a home. Tree hollows are homes for thousands of native birds, animals and reptiles. It takes more than 100 years for a tree hollow to form. It takes less than 10 minutes for a tree to be felled by humans. Land clearing and uncontrolled firewood collection are contributing to the rapid habitat loss for some of our most endangered species. We are not listening to the land. As representatives of the dominant species it is our responsibility to advocate and act for those who cannot speak or defend themselves.

Jan Osmotherly is an educator and curriculum writer across sectors. She has spent 20 years documenting and evaluating community arts, particularly Somebody’s Daughter Theatre Company. As a Community Education Consultant she has a focus on the local and rural and is particularly concerned with advocacy for the native environment. She is an amateur filmmaker employing visual storytelling to engage and motivate local action.

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